In 2005 I went to work in the Yakatamachi parish where a group of Brothers and priests, inspired by Charles de Foucald, lived simply and worked among the homeless. They went to the public parks and other places where the homeless lived, looked after them and put pressure on the local government to play their part.
I was born in County Clare, Ireland, the eldest of seven children, four girls and three boys. I have thirteen nieces and nephews. As a young man I felt that God was calling me to be a missionary, and I entered the Columban seminary training program in 1965 at Dalgan Park, County Meath, Ireland. I was one of sixteen who were ordained priests on Easter Sunday, 1973, at Dalgan Park. Four of us were appointed to South Korea soon after.
I had the privilege to visit the Punduha ng (Stopover) Mga Dumagat Center in Norzagaray, Bulacan as part of the elaboration of an eco-spirituality module that the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance is developing. The module is based on the practices of the Dumagat, a tribal group that lives in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges in the island of Luzon, Philippines.
I grew up with nothing but fear and distance from my father. It seems there was a mountain between us. I envied my friends who had great relationships with their fathers. But this changed. I grew up. One of the last few things we did was climb the highest peak in Iligan City. Together with my sister we crossed the bridge and walked for about an hour or less and reached the peak of Mount Agadagad. On the way up we had to wait for my father who was getting tired and out of breath.
I went to China because we used to get The Far East magazine (the magazine of Columban missionaries published in Ireland). I was the eldest of six children: four girls and then two boys. We grew up between Roscommon and Castlerea in Ireland. I read about China in the magazine and decided this is where I would like to end up. I wrote to the Columban Sisters, and I was invited to meet the person in charge of vocations in Dublin when I was seventeen.
I clearly remember the first time I visited Julie Santiago. To reach her house, I had to pass by several narrow lanes in the area where I lived. It was daytime, but it was quite dark inside her house because they didn't have lights. There was a small table at the corner with plates and kitchenware on it. In the dark room, Julie smiled brightly because she had me as her visitor from Korea. Her three daughters were playing beside her. They were lovely.
As part of my process of priestly formation, in 2015 I was assigned to Taiwan to perform my First Missionary Assignment (FMA). In Taiwan, after ten months of studying Chinese Mandarin (Taiwan's official language), I was assigned to the Holy Martyrs Sanctuary parish in Banqiao, near Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. The priest in charge of the parish was Fr. Willy Ollevier, a Belgian priest of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM).
Since 2014, St. Joseph's Parish in Ballymun, Ireland, started to look at ways to respond to the needs of young people in the parish. Parents asked if there was a program that could help them nourish the spiritual aspect of the lives of their teenage sons and daughters. It was through that inquiry that Lifeteen came to be.
The blind beggar heard the crowd passing him on the road. Feet hurrying, people talking, all moving quickly along. What was going on? "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." It was enough. Immediately the beggar shouted, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!" He was making a nuisance of himself. Shut up, they warned him. But this was not a man to be silenced. He had heard of the Nazarene. He knew, beyond a shadow of doubt that he would help him.